Clothing That Goes Beyond Fashion

Keeping Consumers Safe from UV Rays

24 April 2018

Have you ever considered that your textile and apparel products may not be protecting consumers from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays? Clothing is like our second skin. Wearing clothes is a common necessity shared by people throughout the world, making apparel one of the largest industries worldwide. However, how can consumers be sure their clothing provides them the necessary protection from the sun and other elements?

In February 2018, Singapore reached its highest level of UV radiation, with an index of 15 according to the Singapore Meteorological Service (MSS). The UV index is an international standard that measures the level of UV radiation exposure. It varies from 0 to 11+ and it is grouped into several exposure categories, from low to extreme. The UV index varies with factors such as time of day, season, latitude (near the equator), altitude and cloudiness. Countries near the equator are exposed to higher levels of UV solar radiation.

Additional protection against sunburn is needed when the value reaches "very high" levels. Elevated levels are between 8 and 10, and "extreme" levels of 11 and above, according to the website of the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Are you able to ensure that your textile and apparel products can protect your customers in places like Singapore, in countries near the equator, or anywhere in the world?

In a globalized world, clothing is worn in diverse climates, from Patagonia and Argentina to Kaffeklubben Island and Greenland. While a number of countries like Australia, China and the United States have basic quality standards and regulations for UV protection, today's educated consumers are looking for protection beyond what is required.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a term introduced in Australia in 1996. It defines the amount of UV light that penetrates through fabric. This protection factor depends on several attributes of the fabric, such as the construction, the type of fiber, the dyeing (color) and finishing of the fabric, during which additives that increase protection can be added. It is important that manufacturers recognize how the garment is going to be used and the conditions it will be worn in. For instance, black garments, fabrics with tight weave with little stretch, and materials such as polyester, inherently have a higher UPF factor.

Regardless of whether a garment is worn in Patagonia or in Kaffeklubben, the way to communicate if garments have a UV protection factor is through the garment's label. The UV protection factor is validated through laboratory testing. The labels are not only necessary to comply with regulations, but also serve as fundamental information for consumers. For consumers who seek out UV protection in clothing, being able to identify this attribute on a label can help build confidence in your brand as well as peace of mind that clothes are providing an added layer of protection from the sun. 

Intertek offers a number of tests for textiles and apparel to validate UV protection, including D6603-12 (Standard Specification for Labeling of UV-Protective Textiles) for dry textiles and AATCC 183 (Transmittance or Blocking of Erythemally Weighted UltraViolet Radiation through Fabrics) for wet textiles.

Today's expert blogger is Luisa Ortiz, a project coordinator for Intertek's Softlines and Toys & Hardlines business in Colombia. Luisa evaluates special requirements for consumer products and provides global solutions to support Intertek customers in regulatory, quality and market compliance.